Accurate, Focused Research on Law, Technology and Knowledge Discovery Since 2002

Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read

The Atlantic: “”Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read” This has applications beyond books — it applies to TV, too, and for that matter, email newsletters. Ask me at 4 P.M. what I emailed out that morning and it’s a 50/50 proposition whether I’ll remember. The good news: that’s pretty normal, and arguably appropriate for our digital age.

In the internet age, recall memory—the ability to spontaneously call information up in your mind—has become less necessary. It’s still good for bar trivia, or remembering your to-do list, but largely, Horvath says, what’s called recognition memory is more important. “So long as you know where that information is at and how to access it, then you don’t really need to recall it,” he says.

Research has shown that the internet functions as a sort of externalized memory. “When people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself,” as one study puts it. But even before the internet existed, entertainment products have served as externalized memories for themselves. You don’t need to remember a quote from a book if you can just look it up. Once videotapes came along, you could review a movie or TV show fairly easily. There’s not a sense that if you don’t burn a piece of culture into your brain, that it will be lost forever.

With its streaming services and Wikipedia articles, the internet has lowered the stakes on remembering the culture we consume even further. But it’s hardly as if we remembered it all before…”

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.